Cal Poly's Residential Hall Network Boosts On-Campus Residency

Like other universities with a reputation for innovation, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) wanted to stay on the leading edge of networking technology to provide its students, faculty and administration with high-speed access to the information and services they needed via the campus network and the Internet. Cal Poly is a leading four-year, comprehensive public university with nationally-ranked programs in engineering, architecture and business. The university emphasizes a "learn by doing" educational experience for its 16,000-plus students. Over 2,700 of these students are on-campus residents.

Looking for an ATM Solution

As the Internet exploded in the mid-1990's, Cal Poly searched for a cost-effective residence hall connectivity solution with enough bandwidth to support over 16,000 Internet-hungry users. They wanted to provide "one Ethernet port per pillow" connections as standard in every one of its 1,420 residence hall rooms. They also required easy access to the routed FDDI-based network of mainframe and midrange systems on campus.

After evaluating a number of options, including extending its existing FDDI (Fiber Distributed-Data Interface) network, the school chose Bay Network's (Santa Clara, Calif.) ATM backbone with redundant ATM features and full network management, right down to individual ports - something no other vendor could match. The Cal Poly Housing Department also converted to an all-Bay switched architecture for the university's residence halls.

Today, Cal Poly has one of the first ATM networks in place at a university housing project. Completed in August, 1996, Cal Poly's ResNet (Residential Hall Network) uses a unique scheme for LAN emulation services that provides tremendous fault-tolerance and security as well as dedicated high speed network connections for the 2,784 on-campus residents.

Resident Halls Go High-Tech

Cal Poly residents have unlimited Internet access, with a reliable network built to deliver all of the tools and information they need. "With direct access to ResNet and the Internet from their dorm room, students are now able to access university and worldwide resources for the first time - 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Kinsley Wong, assistant director of the Housing and Residential Life Department at the university.

Since completing ResNet in 1996, the number of returning on-campus student residents has increased by 73%. On-campus students are able to connect to the Internet and also network together within the residence halls to share printers and files, reserve library books and even size up the fit of their furniture in next year's dorm room - services not offered at many other institutions.

To offer all of these services, Cal Poly uses Bay Network's Centillion 100 switches in 13 residential housing complexes at the San Luis Obispo campus. When students request data, Bay's Backbone Line Node (BLN) high-end router transmits FDDI-based data from the campus backbone via ATM to the Centillion 100 switch at each of the 13 residence halls. BayStack stackable hubs then convert the data for efficient delivery to individual users. Cal Poly also uses Bay Network's Optivity network management solution capabilities to allow network administrators to automate the management of network resources.

"Bay Networks had the router technology to deliver data from the campus FDDI network, but they also had the ATM, virtual LAN technology and shared media hubs that put our network a generation ahead of other university residence hall networks," says Wong. "In addition, Bay was the only company we looked at who was willing to work within our budget to make the network solution happen. And the company has just been outstanding with service and network design support."

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This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.